By Shah Munnes Muneer
Edited by Norma Hashim and translated by Yousuf M. Aljamal, the book Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak is a compilation of firsthand interviews of Palestinian children who speak of the humiliation and the terror of being grabbed in the dead of the night from their homes, of being tied, blindfolded, interrogated, beaten and held imprisoned for uncertain periods of time. They speak of being forced to sign confessions written in Hebrew (a language they do not know). This book (of 180 pages) is a compilation of 24 stories of Palestinian child prisoners and is a first person account of Palestinian children. Throughout the book the author tries to focus on the suffering of Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails. The main thrust of the book is the importance of understanding the value of freedom.
The introduction to the book highlights the great trauma and tragedy faced by the Palestinian people in the form of killings, injuries, tortures, arrests, detention and daily humiliation by the occupational forces of Israel. It further discusses the lack of commitment by the international law to safeguard the basic rights of Palestinian people. The book subsequently narrate the stories of these twenty four Palestinian child prisoners starting with the child of the Shuhada Street (Martyrs Street) who never wants anyone to suffer like him due to the Israeli atrocities. The following pages are wrapped with the painful, distressing and agonizing stories from the other twenty three children aged between eleven and seventeen. The height of the oppression against the Palestinian children is such that a 13-year-old young boy, Mussallam Odeh, was jailed 15 times. This is heart wrenching.
The book then narrates the story of a 14-year-old girl who says that she was walking around the rose plants in her garden and experiencing the beauty of nature, when the Israeli soldiers came out of nowhere and arrested her, without her being aware of the charges against her. The author maintains that the Palestinian Children do not know in most of the cases what the allegations against them are. Stepping outside the wall of West Bank, wandering into a closed military zone or raising a flag are considered crimes by the Israeli forces against the children. In most cases the Palestinian children are denied bail and held without legal representation. This speaks volumes about the intensity of state repression against the children in Palestine. Some of the children are kept under house arrests for months together which make them more vulnerable than those who languish in jails.
Another story of a boy reveals that imprisonment is nothing new to them as they are subjected to thousands of violations and tortures every minute under the Israeli occupation. Palestinian children are kept in detention centers and prison cells and are sometimes denied food and water. They are not even allowed to use the toilet. The book reveals how the Palestinian children and youngsters are tortured with electric wires, abused and humiliated in the worst possible manner. They are deprived of sleep, are spat on their faces and beaten up ruthlessly, to make them confess the crimes they never committed and to make them implicate their friends (who never indulged in any crime).
What attracted me at the first instance was the title of the book in itself. Someone has rightly said that one will never understand someone’s pain until he/she feels it or the pain happens to him/her. Therefore, no one other than a Kashmiri can better understand the pain of these Palestinian children because of the fact that the people of Kashmir too are undergoing state repression on a daily basis. The terms such as brutality, torture, violence, occupation, resistance, etc. frequently occur in the book. If the book is properly contextualized, one can appositely relate the situation of Palestine with that of Kashmir, where children are the victims of pellets, tortures and routine humiliation. The difference is that the brutality of Israel is already exposed before the world but the heart-wrenching tragedies of Kashmiris are yet to be heard and acknowledged by most part of the world. What Palestinian children are facing through Israeli occupation is similar what Kashmiris are facing through New Delhi’s repression. The book is a good read and every story of the interviewee takes the reader close to a traumatic state of affairs and makes him realize the deep meaning of freedom vis-à-vis the ugly side of occupation.
Shah Munnes Muneer has a Masters in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City and India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “On the Table: Pathways between Food Studies and Food Writing”, edited by Somrita Urni Ganguly, Fulbright Scholar, Brown University, USA.